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Cheryl
Posted on Thursday, October 02, 2003 - 12:17 pm:   

In my Torcon review in Emcit #97 I speculated that the dreadful organization at Torcon might encourage writers to start attending Dragon*Con rather than Worldcon. Most of the people on this list are professional writers and editors, and I'm wondering how you actually feel about this. To get the discussion going, here are a few pros and cons of the two conventions.

Worldcon has tradition and the Hugos and places a lot of empahsis on books. It is in a different city each year (if you like that sort of thing). It is volunteer run and sometimes can be quite dreadful. Typical attendance 5,000.

Dragon*Con has a lot more people (>20,000 this year) but most of them are media fans. You might meet more of your fans, but you'll do so in a small backroom while the bulk of the convention is swooning over some actor. It is in the same place (Atlanta) every year and it is run by the same people (some of them paid staff) every year.
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Tim Akers
Posted on Friday, October 03, 2003 - 06:34 am:   

I'll take a stab at this, though I'm probably the least qualified one here to make any comment.

It seems to me that the determining factor is that dragoncon is primarily a fan convention, while worldcon is primarily an industry convention. It seems to me that they served fundamentally different purposes.
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Richard Parks
Posted on Friday, October 03, 2003 - 08:03 am:   

I'm with Tim. If TorCon was a mess that's unfortunate but doesn't change the fact that WorldCon is _primarily_ for fans of the written word and DragonCon is mostly for fans of visual media. Yes, I know there is overlap, and for a pro with an established audience DragonCon might be worth doing (though odds are there won't be a lot of new business done). But especially for newer writers trying to build their audience and make professional contacts, it just doesn't make sense to go to conventions where prose is an afterthought at best.
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John Klima
Posted on Friday, October 03, 2003 - 08:06 am:   

Not that this applies to me, but for pros who are not based in the States (being neither a pro, nor based outside the US) there is always the chance that Worldcon will be coming to a place near you. I saw a lot more international fans/people at Worldcon this year than I see at Worldcons in the States. Pros might not be able/willing to travel to the US, but can get to Toronto, or Glasgow, or Tokyo, etc. I like going to different cities for Worldcon, but I don't particularly care for Worldcon. Even it's too big for me, so Dragon*Con is definitely out. I prefer conventions along the lines of Readercon or World Fantasy, which are much smaller.

Just my thoughts.

JK
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ellen
Posted on Friday, October 03, 2003 - 08:09 pm:   

The only way I'd attend DraconCon is if they paid my way. And even then, maybe not. I'd probably check it out once if it wasn't Worldcon weekend but as it is, no way. Worldcon is too important to me professionally.
Ellen Datlow
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Cheryl
Posted on Saturday, October 04, 2003 - 09:20 am:   

Well, this is all very encouraging, folks. Although I must confess to some trepidation at seeing Worldcon described as an industry convention. Fortunately the hard-line fannish types are unlikely to be reading this.

But of course the programming at Worldcon is not really industry-related, except for newbies. So you all come to Worldcon because everyone else goes to Worldcon, yes? It is a networking thing?
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Michael Walsh
Posted on Sunday, October 05, 2003 - 09:24 pm:   

I have to very much disagree with Tim Akers description of WorldCon & DragonCon.

However, I will emphatically agree with his last sentence.

With Worldcon you are purchasing not a ticket, but a membership; there being if nothing else a philosphical difference between tickets and memberships.

Yes, there were problems with Torcon, but y'know . . . my friends were there and *I* had a good time.

But then I am prejudiced.

Michael Walsh
Chair, 41st World SF Convention

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ellen
Posted on Sunday, October 05, 2003 - 10:32 pm:   

The programming at Worldcon includes opportunities for writers, editors, and publishers to publicize what they have coming out officially and unofficially. The kaffee klatches I participate in give readers/aspiring writers, or anybody the chance to talk in a small group to professional writers and editors and ask questions about writing or the business of writing. Or about an authors' books.

And yes, networking certainly, with my authors and with artists, agents, publishers, editors, and booksellers, some of whom I only see a few times a year.
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Tim Akers
Posted on Monday, October 06, 2003 - 02:32 pm:   

Lemme clarify, lest I offend someone. Certainly not something I want to do.

There's an enormous amount of fan stuff to do at Worldcon. No question. But there's also an enormous amount of industry stuff to do, too. I was in Toronto for the whole thing, was going 110% the whole time, and did nothing but industry panels. Well, I wandered the dealers room, and drank a great deal, but I think that qualifies!
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Liz W
Posted on Monday, October 06, 2003 - 04:01 pm:   

For me,Worldcon is an industry con. Basically, what Ellen says about programming. I go there specifically for work and promotion, which also involves the bar and hanging out with a lot of folk. But primarily, it is a working con for me - unlike Eastercon in the UK, which (when I go) is usually for more social purposes. I have now been to 4 Worldcons, and the programming has usually verged on the catastrophic - Torcon was the culmination of this, though as others have said, I knew people and it turned out to be a good con for me professionally.

Without exception, the best con I have ever been to in terms of professionalism has been Utopiales in France. I know there are issues with this, but I thought it was exemplary. It is, as far as I know, run by a professional convention-running organisation. I'd go to DragonCon if I thought there was enough of a reader base. If it's more of a media con, there's little point. But I gather from writer friends that promotion at DragonCon tends to pay off in terms of sales, soooo...
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Cheryl
Posted on Monday, October 06, 2003 - 05:50 pm:   

Liz said: "I have now been to 4 Worldcons, and the programming has usually verged on the catastrophic"

Does this include San Jose? If so I'd be grateful if you could tell me where we went wrong. Was it just the convention centre layout, or did we stuff up somewhere?

More generally, Worldcons are not, as far as I know, programmed with industry folks much in mind. Aside from the traditional mass "make this trip tax deductible" panel, is there anything that you guys would specifically like to see included.

And by the way, N4 has an open program brainstorm list on their web site. You can request panels here: http://noreascon4.blogs.com/program_brain/.
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Jay Caselberg
Posted on Tuesday, October 07, 2003 - 12:20 am:   

I've been to six worldcons I think, and as many world fantasies, plus sundry and several others. Most disappointed to have missed TorCon. As others have indicated, Worldcon and WFC are both working cons. San Jose wasn't too bad apart from the heat, but hey, you can't do anything about that. Though I spent some time with food poisoning and didn't actually have any panels, there was some swapping that went on that meant I actually had panels and the concom were very accommodating about it.
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Laura Anne
Posted on Tuesday, October 07, 2003 - 06:31 am:   

"But of course the programming at Worldcon is not really industry-related, except for newbies."

Hrm. Not sure I can agree with that statement. Yes, there's the inevitable "how to break into publishing" panel, but in the past there have also been panels on financial advice for writers, how to deal with an agent/writer relationship gone bad, and what do do after you sell your second or third book. Hardly newbie panels, unless you stretch 'newbie' to mean anyone with less than five-ten years of experience...

And that's just on the business side of it. There have always been a number of panels on writing that are appropriate for the established writer to sit in on and learn from.

A good worldcon should have an interesting mix of professional, fannish, mixed-audience and general interest panels, all with enough time to breathe between. In an ideal world, natch.

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priscilla olson
Posted on Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - 06:23 am:   

I'd just like to nte that the open brainstorming list for Noreascon4 is to *suggest* panel, not "request" them.
(Great discussion, by the way....)

- Priscilla Olson
Noreascon4 Program
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Cheryl
Posted on Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - 09:00 am:   

Sorry Prisicilla, will try to do better next time. :-)

Laura Anne, pleased top hear that you are getting some useful program. But is it enough, and is it really what you want? Obviously we can't turn the whole thing over to industry-related programming, any more than we can turn the whole thing over to costuming, techno-geekery or Buffy. But are we doing enough of the right thing to keep people like Liz and Jay coming back?

And on a related topic, how come Dragon*Con is good for sales and Worldcon (by implication) less so? Is it just the number of attendees, or does Dragon*Con somehow facilitate author PR better?
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Minz
Posted on Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - 12:09 pm:   

There are two obvious reasons why sales could be better helped at Dragon-Con:
1) Worldcon is mostly the choir. The people who read sf books who attend Worldcon are already your core consumers, so the direct consumer benefit, particularly if you're an established author, is diluted.
2) Dragoncon has a _lot_ more attendees, many of which have absolutely no clue about you or your book, unless you write tie-in or are a bestseller. So the potential upside is definitely bigger. But having an actual impact on your sales would be more difficult, I imagine, because unless you're really good at self-promo/great speaker, it'd be tough to get the message across, since most attendees are much more interested in seeing Nana Visitor's chest than your book.

ALSO, this assumes that actual consumer interaction is the #1 concern, when it should only be one factor in your decision-making process: Worldcon affords much greater opportunity to network within publishing, plus the programming is much more than just a vehicle to reach an audience (as Laura Anne so ably pointed out.)

And lastbutnotleast, at Dragoncon, you don't end up in Denny's at 4am, doing the Timewarp with a handful of your colleagues in a room filled to the brim with Garth Brooks fans (many of which are undoubtedly armed--we were in Texas afterall). That's a Worldcon kinda thing.
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Jay Caselberg
Posted on Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - 01:35 pm:   

Ahh, you speak truth, Minz. Yay ver-illy.
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Laura Anne
Posted on Wednesday, October 08, 2003 - 01:37 pm:   

Gee, thanks for that flashback, Jim.

And if the other patrons weren't armed, I'm pretty sure that waitress was...
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Night Shade Books
Posted on Thursday, October 09, 2003 - 05:35 am:   

I'm with John Klima on this, give me a small con. ConJose was my first WorldCon, and frankly I won't go again. It's just too damn big for me. I'm seeing just from this thread alone that there were a lot of people I'd have like to spend time with at ConJose, but never once laid eyes on.

To me, an industry con is the only way to go, because it's a way to spend time with my colleagues. World Fantasy may only be 600 people, but I'll get to hang out with as many of them as I feel up to hanging out with, without feeling that I'm running into the same six people all of the time.

Like Ellen, cons like World Fantasy are essential to me professionally. It's where I fly the colors, meet with artists, editors, and authors, and talk shop with fellow idiots AKA publishers. And I'll never do a giant con again, because when I can't *find* the artists, editors and authors, then I have a hard time talking with them.

I've been to a couple of media cons, mostly regional stuff like BayCon, and you couldn't force me to go with a cattle prod. The next person at a con that wants to debate the merits of Sailor Moon with me is going to have a bad day.

Just out of curiosity, am I the only one who doesn't do panels? I don't attend them, I don't participate. I usually do three events at conventions: parties, the bar, and the dealer's room.

Of course, this wasn't to debate the merits of WFC and WorldCon, so to answer the question, I'll take WorldCon because you couldn't force me to go to Dragon*Con at gunpoint.

Jason
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John Klima
Posted on Thursday, October 09, 2003 - 06:04 am:   

I'm a panel whore. I do them so I get a free membership (where applicable) and I guess it gives some exposure for my little zine. I don't go to much in the way of panels except readings, which I enjoy quite a bit. I live in the dealer's room and the bar.

JK
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Minz
Posted on Thursday, October 09, 2003 - 01:51 pm:   

I'm definitely with Jason: WFC over Worldcon, and it's about the parties, the bar, and the dealer's room (and the occassionally really cool event: e.g. the massive signing at WFC). But I do enjoy Worldcon--it's best handled by setting up at least your most important meetings with folks in advance, so you'll know you see those that you must. It's overwhelming only if you try and pay close enough attention to all that you're missing, instead of paying attention to where you are (somebody stop him, he's getting dangerously close to Yoda-talk).

And I only do panels under pain o' death (but I'm not an author trying to create a favorable impression, hopefully while chatting about a subject relevant to what I write). I don't mind them, just so rarely do I enjoy them (I can think of lots of exceptions, but there are many, many more perfunctory panels than exceptional ones.)
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ellen
Posted on Thursday, October 09, 2003 - 04:27 pm:   

I do panels because they're good publicity. I very seldom attend panels unless they're about something I'm really interested in. And don't attend readings or speeches (Howard Waldrop readings and Harlan Ellison speeches are the occasional exceptions).

At Worldcon I make most of my meal plans in advance so I can actually see the people I want to. I've done that a little for WFC but since it's much smaller that's not as crucial. I really enjoy kaffee klatsches because I can get together with a small group that wants to spend time with me (for whatever reason).
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Michael Walsh
Posted on Friday, October 10, 2003 - 08:57 am:   

Worldcon? WFC?
Me, I'm quite catholic: I enjoy both.

I see friends at both, by now everyone knows where to find me: behind my dealer's table.

I've been attending Worldcon since 1974, made not quite all of them. As for WFC, I've been to all of them.

As for DragonCon, I'm with Jason on that - not even a cattle prod would get me to one.

Michael Walsh
10/10/03: only 23 days to go!



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Cheryl
Posted on Saturday, October 11, 2003 - 09:36 am:   

One interesting thing here is that most of the response has come from publishers and editors. My original question was aimed at writers on the grounds that, as Liz said, they might get better promotional opportunities at Dragon*Con. I'm not at all surprised that most of the people who have responded here prefer Worldcon to Dragon*Con, and probably prefer WFC to Worldcon. But I would like to hear from some more writers.

Jason - love the description of BayCon as a media convention. Must use that next time I come across some teenage fan in the Bay Area who tells me he won't go to BayCon because it is full of boring old farts who are only interested in books.
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ellen
Posted on Saturday, October 11, 2003 - 06:32 pm:   

As an anthologist who wants my books to sell, I've never heard anything about DragonCon that would make me think my being there would help me sell my anthologies.
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Laura Anne
Posted on Sunday, October 12, 2003 - 02:05 pm:   

Wearing my writer hat, I'd choose WorldCon over DragonCon because you go where the readers/buyers are! Shilling a book works much better if the audience is pre-selected to read anyway (and thereby gives a damn).

And I do panels because I enjoy them. I attend panels to learn things/meet someone afterward for drinks. A good panel is a wonderful thing. A bad panel is Chinese water torture.
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Liz W
Posted on Sunday, October 12, 2003 - 02:24 pm:   

With reference to a lot of cons - but obviously Worldcon features large - it's the whole scramble to get onto panels and so forth that I find, frankly, somewhat depressing. Those of us who have to come over to the US conventions do so principally for one reason: promotion. It's time consuming and expensive. Say this to some fans, and they react as though you were offering to sell them your mother.

However, publishers to some degree expect writers to be there and the pressure on authors to promote their work is rising all the time. If one has to take time out to get over to the States, stagger about with jetlag feeling like death, spend large quantities of dosh in flights, hotel bills and general expenses, and _then_ one has to hassle like crazy to get promotional opportunities, it is soul destroying. Especially if you end up on panels which have nothing to do with what you actually do (you'll recall the art thing...)

I know cons are not professionally run, but they seem to be the only conferences we have in this industry, and the sheer lack of professionalism really shows. This isn't aimed at Con Jose in particular (though that's the most hussling I've ever had to do at short notice). God knows, huge kudos goes to people who give up their time to run these events - but the learning curve seems to be zip. Cons have been running now for decades - and we still get a shambles. Sorry to bitch, but it winds me up. Everyone always says: the Worldcon committees always implode and fall out with one another. Well, why the hell does this apparently happen over and over again? And if you ask someone that, they say: but you know what fans are like. Yet my question remains!

But it seems we have no alternative.
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Laura Anne
Posted on Sunday, October 12, 2003 - 02:54 pm:   

"God knows, huge kudos goes to people who give up their time to run these events - but the learning curve seems to be zip."


Regional pride is a damnable thing. As is "not invented here." A local staff is not only a good thing, it's essential. But there also needs to be some kind of long-term convention memory. Not to mention someone who knows the basics of large group management.

I've floated the idea of a 3-term "overseer" for WorldCons before, with a one-year overlap between terms so there's on the job training on how to handle hotel contracts, site planning, etc..

And hey, as long as we're dreaming, why not mkae it a (low) paid volunteer position? That way we'll get someone who's actually knowledgable and competent (I have someone in mind already, actually. If he wouldn't kill me for it, which he would.)
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Jay Caselberg
Posted on Sunday, October 12, 2003 - 03:16 pm:   

Hmm, I wonder who that would be...<g>
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Liz W
Posted on Monday, October 13, 2003 - 02:26 am:   

>I've floated the idea of a 3-term "overseer" for WorldCons before, with a one-year overlap between terms so there's on the job training on how to handle hotel contracts, site planning, etc..

Absolutely. I could not agree more with this.

Though I can see the 'poison chalice' side of the argument. Also <g>.
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Cheryl
Posted on Tuesday, October 14, 2003 - 03:29 pm:   

I suspect that any attempt to create a Worldcon overseer, particularly if it were a paid position, would ignite the Libertarian sympathies of fans and have very little chance of success. Even if such a person were appointed, the sort of committee that we had at Torcon would probably do whatever they could to ignore any advice they were given, and indeed might deliberately go against it so as to prove that they knew better.

What we do have is SMOFcon, an annual convention which all Worldcon bidders are encouraged to attend and at which they can meet experienced people who can give them advice and maybe even serve on their committees. Sometimes this works very well. The Glasgow committee, for example, is a very international effort. Unfortunately fandom has a tendency to have sympathy for perceived underdogs and will therefore sometimes vote a Worldcon to a group that is proud of having little or no links to experienced Worldcon runners.

Coming back to Liz’s point, getting on panel at Worldcon can indeed be a traumatic experience. Worldcons get a huge number of requests (and in many cases imperious demands) for places on panel. Much of this comes from self-published authors. Consequently a substantial proportion of the people who want to be on panel are disappointed (and this despite the vast amount of programming that Worldcons have). The people most likely to lose out are people just like Liz was in the run-up to ConJose, i.e. people who have not published many novels and haven’t come up through the US industry and fandom whereby they might have already established a reputation.

One of the things that might help would be if I were to write a “how to get on panel at Worldcon” article for the SFWA Bulletin. Possibly this has been done before, or maybe it is a bad idea for some reason. Priscilla, if you are still looking in, your feedback would be appreciated.

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